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Regions > Australasia > Blue-faced honeyeater

Blue-faced honeyeater

Location at the Zoo: Australasia



Region:

Australia

Class:

Aves

Order:

Passeriformes

Family:

Meliphagidae

Genus:

Entomyzon

Scientific Name:

Entomyzon cyanotis

Description

: The magnificent blue patches of bare skin on this honeyeater's face give it its name. Surrounding the yellow eye, coloured patches range from a pale blue to an iridescent cobalt blue. A long skull with an almost-as-long bill characterizes this nectar eater. The slightly downcurved bill is dark grey towards the tip. The inward half is pale blue. The bill is conical. The crown, nape, facial feathers and bib are black. A thin white line crosses the nape between the eye patches. Another white line creates a moustache effect as it runs from the bottom of the bill along the bib to joint the breast. Other than the bib, the undersides are white. The uppers are golden olive – except for the margins of the primary feathers, which are dark brown. Legs are bluish-grey. The tail is squarish and medium length.

There are three subspecies: E. c. cyanotis is described above. E. c. albipennis has a white patch on the underwing that is visible in flight. E. c. griseigularis is smaller, in line with Bergmann's rule. Juveniles resemble the parents except for a dark-brown head, yellow or green facial skin, and a pale-grey bib.

Length: 26 - 32 cm
Wingspan: 44 cm
Bill: 3 - 3½ cm
Weight: 105 g

Distribution

: Albipennis extends from the Kimberleys in northeast Western Australia across the top end of the Northern Territory and into northern Queensland. Griseigularis inhabits the Cape York Peninsula and the southwest corner of Papua New Guinea. South of Cape York, cyanotis cuts a wide swath through Queensland, New South Wales and northern Victoria (but not the southeast of New South Wales and Victoria).

Habitat

: Prefers open forest, the edges of rainforest, dry sclerophyll forest, and trees in mangroves and along rivers. In urban areas, they like parks and gardens. They can be found up to 850 m.

Food

: Invertebrates are this honeyeater's preferred food: cockroaches, termites, grasshoppers, scale insects, flies, moths, bees, ants, spiders, and various beetles. Not only do they catch insects, but they also search them out beneath bark. Like all honeyeaters, they take nectar. Blue-faced honeyeaters have also earned the nickname "banana bird" because they feed on both the fruit and its flowers. Grapes are a particular favorite. They have also been known to eat small lizards. Campsites are another attraction – they search out sweeter human food and have a fondness for milk.

Reproduction and Development

: In the wild, blue-faced honeyeaters breed from June to January, but mostly August through November. They can produce one or two broods per year with two eggs each time. They build a bowl-shaped nest in the fork of a tree using sticks and bits of bark. Or they will renovate an old babbler or honeyeater nest.
The female incubates for 16 days. Like all passerines, the hatchlings are altricial – that is, they are very immature and need care for some time. At birth, they are blind and incapable of moving around. They have only sparse tufts of down on their backs, shoulders and wings.

At day four, the young open their eyes. On day six, pinfeathers emerge on their wings. On days seven and eight, pinfeathers start to appear over the rest of the body. By day 16, they have fledged. Both parents feed the newborns insects, fruit and nectar.

Adaptations

: Like all honeyeaters, Entomyzon cyanotis has a lengthy tongue that is adapted for feeding on nectar. Frayed with bristles, it works like a paintbrush. When it is inserted into a flower, it quickly soaks up the nectar. And it is quick. The tongue can be extended about 10 times per second – which is long enough to empty the flower. Each time the tongue returns to the mouth, the bristles are pressed against projections on the roof of the mouth, squeezing out the nectar. This liquid then runs down grooves into the throat. Another adaptation to assist entry into flowers is the long, conical bill.

Blue-faced honeyeaters are social birds, usually found in pairs. However, they often spend time in noisy groups of 6 to 30, sometimes feeding together. Groups have also been found above treetops, performing aerial displays calling excitedly.

Immature birds will often assist new parents in their parental duties like feeding. Particularly when young are present, this species is very aggressive towards intruders, diving at and harassing other birds and even dogs. This can be a big negative in areas with only remnant forests of less than 20 hectares. The blue-faced honeyeater will drive out other bird species, thus lessening diversity. Bathing in forest pools is a favoured activity.

One of the earliest birds to join the dawn chorus, this honeyeater features a piping "ki-owt". It often squeaks while flying. When mobbing another bird, it will squawk harshly. Blue-faced honeyeaters are inquisitive and fairly tame, showing these tendencies in gardens or at golf courses and campsites. The oldest banded bird found was eight years old.

Threats to Survival

: Blue-faced honeyeaters are common. Farmers however, view them as pests with their appetite for bananas and grapes.

Status

: IUCN: Least Concern; CITES: Not Listed.

Zoo Diet

: Toronto Zoo lory nectar, mixed fruit (finely chopped), bananas, grapes, Real Pasto, crickets, mealworms, Toronto Zoo carnivore vitamin/mineral supplement.


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